Note: This story was last updated at 7:30 p.m.
A 19-year-old man being questioned about a car stolen from Nashville fled from police as they tried to arrest him in Oak Ridge late Tuesday morning, and more than 30 officers and deputies spent more than two hours searching for him by foot, car, and helicopter. The Oak Ridge Preschool was briefly locked down during the search, and the suspect, Elijah McDowell, 19, was tracked for more than four miles on foot before being captured at Cedar Hill Park near Michigan Avenue and Outer Drive in north-central Oak Ridge.
One Oak Ridge Police Department officer sustained non-life threatening injuries while chasing McDowell into the park.
McDowell’s charges include three counts of property theft, with one between $10,000 and $59,999; assault; resisting arrest; evading arrest; and probation violation, according to Anderson County Sheriff’s Department jail records. His address lists him as a resident of Dandridge.
Before McDowell was caught, Oak Ridge Police Department officers and Anderson County Sheriff’s Department deputies swarmed roads on the north side of Oak Ridge and down into Marlow while searching for the suspect. They combed the roads and woods along Outer Drive, Key Springs Road, Bacon Springs Road, and Oliver Springs Highway, among other streets. A Knox County Sheriff’s Office Airwatch helicopter flew low circles over the woods on the north side of Black Oak Ridge, which is on the north side of Oak Ridge.
The pursuit started after Oak Ridge officers were dispatched to a home at 102 Marion Road at 11:47 a.m. Tuesday. They were trying to locate a black 2008 Dodge Charger reported stolen from Nashville, a press release said. The vehicle was being tracked remotely by the Metropolitan Nashville Metropolitan Police Department.
When officers arrived at the Marion Road home, they made contact with McDowell, who was at the home and in possession of the keys to the stolen Charger, the press release said. As ORPD interviewed McDowell, they discovered the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department had an active warrant for him for violating his probation.
“As officers attempted to take Mr. McDowell into custody, he physically resisted and fled on foot,” the press release said.
Officers chased McDowell, who moved rapidly toward the Oak Ridge Schools Administration Building/Preschool. The ORPD asked that the SAB/Preschool facility be locked down immediately as a safety precaution. The lockdown was lifted a short time later when it was confirmed McDowell fled northbound over the northern ridge near Orchard Lane.
“At no time were students or staff in any danger,” the press release said.
The ORPD requested mutual aid from the ACSD and a Knox County Sheriff’s Office Airwatch helicopter. They helped track McDowell in the heavy brush on the northern ridge of the city limits.
Multiple ORPD and ACSD canine units were also deployed, along with approximately 21 ORPD officers and 10 ACSD officers, who either established a containment perimeter or actively tracked McDowell for more than four miles on foot.
During the pursuit, officers appeared to search an area that stretched from behind Oak Ridge Preschool north to Outer Drive and Orchard Circle, over the ridge top down to Bacon Springs Road, west past Key Springs Road (toward Oliver Springs), and then back up to Cedar Hill Park.
At 2:20 p.m., ORPD officers took McDowell into custody at Cedar Hill Park, on Michigan Avenue. An ORPD officer was transported to the Methodist Medical Center for treatment of non-life threatening injuries sustained while pursuing McDowell into Cedar Hill Park, the press release said.
“This was a classic case of multiple law enforcement agencies assisting each other to apprehend a desperate felon by bringing the needed resources in the right locations to effect an arrest and protect residents and our schools,” ORPD Chief Jim Akagi said.
“Without the vital assistance from ACSD and the KCSO Airwatch helicopter, the suspect may have gotten away,” the police chief said. “I commend our officers and dispatch personnel for aggressively pursuing the suspect for more than four miles on foot and over a time period of approximately two-and-a-half hours. Their tenacity and professionalism led to a successful outcome.
“I am particularly pleased with officers who redeployed themselves to the Preschool from the pursuit when the lockdown was called—I believe their recognition of an immediate potential threat to the Preschool students and staff were key in containing the suspect and keeping him away from school facilities.”
The ORPD said it strongly encourages residents to sign up for Nixle text alerts by texting 37830 to 888777. The Nixle alert system was used continuously throughout this incident to keep subscribers informed of the suspect’s locations throughout the foot pursuit, and also to advise them to shelter in place when necessary and when the situation was all clear. During the chase, the ORPD sent out alerts about police activity between New York and Michigan avenues, on Outer Drive between Orchard Circle and Oneida Lane, and at Outer Drive and Key Springs Road.
You can sign up for ORPD Nixle alerts by going to the ORPD Web page at www.oakridgetn.gov.
View crime data and sign up for crime alert emails at www.raidsonline.com.
Follow ORPD on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with current alerts and significant crime/public safety information.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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